Caylis is shuffling around the little cove she’s made her home, rearranging her furniture like she has so many times before.
She prods underneath a chunk of coral with some kelp, trying to sweep the little creatures beneath it out of their cold, wet, dark abode, and they finally scuttle out. If they’d been as big as her, Caylis decides, they’d have very convincing expressions of irritation on their faces.
She lifts up the coral, then absentmindedly swipes the kelp lightly across the surface of the sand, her mind drifting to other things. Other things like... the surface, and the battle, and – inevitably – her sister. Sighing a little as she continues her menial task of redecoration, Caylis wonders how her sister is doing in Maraqua. Instead of burning jealousy for what should have been hers, all Caylis feels now is a sort of pity. For her sister? She scoffs quietly at this thought, for what could her sister ever have to be pitied for? Being chained to a beautiful underwater kingdom where she was admired and much doted upon? Where she had everything she could possibly want, and was popular to boot? There is nothing to pity her sister for.
Caylis moves on from the chunk of coral that serves as a sort of table to her, and remembers the battle they’d had with the evil pirate Scarblade. How Isca and that blonde Usul friend of hers had ever roped her into helping them in the first place still escapes her. She remembers Maraqua, the old and the new, and she still remembers the fear she felt when she and Isca hid from robbers so long ago in the ruins of their destroyed home. She remembers the whirlpool that ruined them with a curse. She remembers the Peophin who found them amongst the rubble of their obliterated childhood, and she knows that the minute her home was destroyed so was the last of her childhood. She remembers crying and clinging to Isca when they carted them away to the site where King Kelpbeard was building a new city, and she remembers watching the remaining citizens work to rebuild their precious city. To her, it was precious no more – simply another thing that would be destroyed again in time and rebuilt again – what was the point? For she could see no reason for staying in the city-in-progress. She remembered trying to convince her sister to leave with her, to become explorers and discover fantastic new lands that they could be co-princesses of and have endless adventures in together. She remembers her sister considering the idea, and spoiling the fun as she denied, slowly shaking her head now and spouting the nonsense that their duty was to their people, and not themselves. She remembers growing up and how Isca was always favored over her, how she’d gotten such nice clothes made of the finest surface silk (always recovered from shipwrecks of trading ships) and how she herself had had to stitch together the rags of the clothes she was found in. She remembers fighting with Isca, and she remembers being banished.
She doesn’t want to remember any of those things.
Instead she remembers the young Usul – what was his name again? Gary something... Garin, that was it. She also remembers her sister, all grown up so many years later, and she remembers the Usul’s companion – that red Kyrii, Jacques. She remembers talking to Jacques shortly after the battle, helping him rub medicine on his wounds. “Did you ever feel overshadowed?” she’d asked him.
“Eh? Overshadowed by who?” he’d answered, bemused, as he looked up from the tub of ointment he was dabbing onto his wounded knee.
“Garin. I mean, you’re his best friend, yet he gets to be captain and you get to be first mate.”
“Never really thought about that. Sometimes, I guess, but it’s for the better.” he shrugs and returns to his work.
“For the better?”
“I’m too reckless. Too foolhardy, as some of the crew members would say. Garin’s got a good head. He knows what’s going to help us or hurt us.”
Caylis wondered over that for a long time, comparing herself to Jacques, comparing herself to Garin. Then she compared herself to her sister.
Wandering over to an old photograph sitting on what she considered to be her makeshift mantelpiece, she scrapes some of the barnacles off it and takes a look at the young faces beaming up at her from the picture. It is a picture of her and Isca and Garin and Jacques, her and Isca’s heads poking up out of the water to where Garin and Jacques are crouched by the shoreline. It had been taken on land and wrapped in a clear, waterproof case and had been given to her by Isca. Isca, who only needed Garin’s parting gift (a delicate kelp necklace, all strung with pearly, tiny shells) to remember her time on the surface.
“Someday,” she’d told Caylis, shortly after the battle, “someday, Garin promised me, he’d let me see the surface. He’d let me walk on shore like I let him see our city.”
“But that only brought trouble for us!” Caylis blurted out, interrupting her sister. Isca drew back, looking hurt, and refused to speak to Caylis for the rest of the day. So Caylis had moved back to her cove in the coral reefs far away from the beautiful, glittering city of New Maraqua.
Caylis sighs, unwinding the cleaning rag she’d tied around her forehead only moments before. She sits down on a nearby rock and massages her aching temples. It’s too much work, she thinks to herself, remembering things like this. Too much work and too much pain.
“I want to forget,” Caylis says out loud, squeezing her eyes shut. A small tear leaks out from the corner of one eye and evaporates into the salt of the sea. “I want to forget.”
“Everything?” says a quiet voice, from all around Caylis and yet nowhere. Caylis’s eyes shoot open, the sea witch suddenly on full alert. She springs from her rock, tangled grey hair floating around her.
“Who’s there?” she shouts, looking for the source of this mysterious voice.
From somewhere and nowhere, the voice chuckles.
“Caylis, dear, I only asked you if you wanted to forget.”
“And what if I do?” Caylis asks, wary of the voice’s offer.
“Then you forget.”
In all her panic, Caylis has grabbed her kelp broom, brandishing it as if it were a Maractite sword. Thoughtfully, she lowers it, considering the voice’s proposal.
Everything. To forget everything. All the pain, all the hurt, all the ache. To forget abandonment and loneliness and betrayal.
To forget Isca.
“No,” Caylis hears herself saying, surprised to hear her own voice. “No, I don’t want to forget.”
She is a little shocked at herself for saying it, but, astonishingly, Caylis doesn’t regret it. Across from her, she can see the picture in its waterproof glass pane, with four faces smiling at her encouragingly. Caylis holds her head up a little higher and tries to pretend she’s not going crazy, talking to herself like this.
“Fine,” the voice sighs, and she can hear it fluctuating as it condenses into a tiny cloud of bubbles about a foot in front of her. The shape looks like a Water Faerie, gliding past her shoulder. Caylis can even feel the “whoosh” of displaced water against her shoulder. The bubble form of the Water Faerie slows, bubbles slowly popping as she returns to the water yet again. “You made the right choice, you know.” The bubble-Faerie-form-voice says grudgingly. “Not like most people.”
Then the voice grows tinnier as the last bubble pops, and the Water Faerie is gone.
Caylis blinks, once, twice, wondering if she imagined the whole episode. But the kelp broom is still dangling loosely in her hand, and she can still feel the tingle of popping bubbles against her shoulder. Then there is a hesitant knock on her seaweed door and Caylis pushes the matter to the back of her mind.
“Caylis?” a timid voice calls. Caylis hastens to the door and brushes aside a couple of fronds of seaweed to find her sister looking at her bashfully from beneath her curtain of moon-silver hair.
“Isca!” Caylis cries, pleasantly surprised, and invites her sister in. Isca steps inside the cove, taking in the scenery with wide eyes.
“Wow!” she says admiringly, “You’ve really cleaned up since the last time I was here.”
“Yup,” Caylis says, puffing out her chest proudly. Then, returning to the subject, “Isca, you usually don’t visit me way out here. What do you need?”
“Well, I – I – ” Isca sudddenly looks very shy again and returns to observing her tail fin and the fine sand beneath it. Then she breathes out a resolute sigh. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”
There is a loud silence between the two sisters for a moment, each staring into the other’s eyes. Then, very slowly, Caylis says, “I forgive you.”
And that is that.
Caylis makes drinks for the both of them and Isca begins telling of life in the palace, carefully skimming over her own life and only speaking of the major issues. Finally, as if somewhat unsure what to say, she finishes, “I missed you, sister.”
“It’s pretty lonely here, too.” Caylis smiles at her sister. Isca smiles back, her own grin wobbly because she looked like she was about to cry for a second. Caylis feels like lightening the mood. She hasn’t talked to her sister like this for a very long time. And, they have forever to talk anyway, now.
“Hey Isca, have you ever met a Water Faerie before...?”